We've had an excellent weekend all around here in Paris, but from all the great experiences, we selected five moments that made this Grand Prix an event to remember.
5. Old-School Pro Sebastian Thaler Returns with Blue-Black Aristocrats
Sebatian Thaler is a German player who claimed two Pro Tour Top 8s back in 2007 and 2008, but took a bit of a break from the competitive side of the game after the birth of his son. But he's back. After a Day 2 finish at Grand Prix Brussels and Grand Prix Bologna earlier his season, he showed up again this weekend. More importantly, he did so with an interesting Standard deck: Blue-Black Aristocrats with Grasp of Darkness and Eldrazi Skyspawner. You can check out the decklist at the end of his Round 6 Feature Match report.
After an 8-0 start, he eventually finished 11-4 in the event. "The break was good, but my son is three years old now, so it's okay to play more Grand Prix events again," he told us. "It seems like the game is even better than a few years ago. It’s always a lot of fun to play!” As Thaler shows, no one ever really quits Magic, and it's always a pleasure to see a veteran's take on any Constructed format.
4. Oliver Gheysen, Who Traveled All the Way from Dubai, Went Undefeated on Day 1
There were four undefeated 9-0 players at the end of Day 1. Amidst Martin Jůza from the Czech Republic, Ryoichi Tamada from Japan, and Steve Bains from Great Britain, we also had Olivier Gheysen from…the United Arab Emirates? I didn't even know there was a Magic store in that country!
As it turned out, Gheysen, who originally hails from Belgium, was personally responsible for opening one of the first stores in the region: Five or six years ago, he opened a store called BattleZone in Dubai together with Marianne Gladwin, who joined him along with several other UAE residents. on this trip to Paris. They were happy to provide a picture with Gheysen in the middle.
"We love the game, so we travel for the game. Magic in general is thriving, and it’s growing in the Middle East in particular. The Magic community in Dubai has grown to hundreds of players recently! We went to several Asian Grand Prix tournaments which are closer for us, but coming to Europe is the only way to get increased experience at GPs and meet new players. It’s always a lot of fun whether we win or lose,” he continued. But winning is usually even more fun, and even though the wheels fell off on Day 2, Gheysen's 9-0 start was an awesome triumph, especially after making a trip from another area of the world.
3. Antonio Del Moral León Comboing Out with Jeskai Ascendancy
Pro Tour Fate Reforged champion Antonio Del Moral León didn't disappoint as far as deck choice was concerned. Given that this was his last chance to try an exciting Standard brew with cards from both Khans of Tarkir and Oath of the Gatewatch at a major event, he combined Jeskai Ascendancy with Expedite, Slip Through Space, and Elemental Uprising.
His combo turns, in which he repeatedly untapped an animated Mystic Monastery and eventually attacked with a humongous unblockable land, typically drew a huge crowd. You can find his decklist at the end of his Round 8 Feature Match. Although Del Moral León failed to make Day 2, Vicent Silvestre finished 31st with a similar deck, which indicates that this may be a cool and competitive deck to consider during the last days of the current Standard format.
2. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet Cementing its Power in the Semifinals
Both semifinals were dominated by the legendary vampire from Oath of the Gatewatch. In one game, Martin Jůza had Gideon, Ally of Zendikar going, but promptly lost it to Ben Stark's 5/6 Kalitas that grew out of hand shortly after. In another game, Petr Sochůrek learned via a discard spell that Ryoichi Tamada had three Collected Company in hand, but he wasn't worried—he simply assumed the beatdown role and went on the offense with Kalitas and his army of Zombies to take the game.
If you're not scared by Kalitas yet, you should be. Especially since Vampires and Zombies are a good taste of what is to come in Shadows over Innistrad.
1. Petr Sochůrek Going for Double Gold
To many fans of the game, the name Petr Sochůrek may not ring a bell. But the players who know this young Czech talent have a lot of respect for him. His long-time rival and 13th-ranked player Ondřej Stráský called him "one of the Top 3 players in Europe right now." As Stráský said, "whenever I talk about a game play situation with him, I feel like he understands it way more than I do. Plus he has great hair!”
At this event, Sochůrek finally had his breakthrough finish. He made the Top 8 with his Grixis Control deck featuring Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, Chandra, Flamecaller and Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet. His finish yielded the Pro Points he needed to clinch Gold level in the Pro Players Club. And he didn't stop there. After consecutively defeating Giuseppe Reale, Ryoichi Tamada, and Ben Stark, while earning praise from the Hall of Famer for his playing skill along the way, he took the second gold in the evening in the form of a proverbial gold medal. Congratulations!